Two References: MSNBC and The Economist

British journalists craft metaphors for their readers. American journalists explain them to theirs.

That’s the conclusion I’m drawing having used MSNBC and The Economist as two of my main news sources over the past few months. I think there’s no argument that the two are comparable – MSNBC has almost fifty million unique visitors per month, while The Economist has about four million such viewers – but especially considering MSNBC gets so much of its content from AP, it seems odd that American news content doesn’t keep up with the elocution of its British brethren.

I base this observation on two sentences, the first from MSNBC, the second from The Economist, both on the subject of the Israel-Palestine peace talks.

But in response to Abbas’ comments, Netanyahu said “he is ready to immediately sit down with Abu Mazen for continuous direct, one on one, negotiations until white smoke wafts” — an allusion to the Vatican’s custom of when Roman Catholic Church officials choose a new pope.


After striving for almost two years to shepherd Israeli and Palestinian leaders into direct talks, only for this effort to collapse over the issue of settlements, Mr Obama is in danger of concluding like many presidents before him that Arab-Israeli diplomacy is a Sisyphean distraction.

One website paused to explain a globally-recognized Papal tradition, the other didn’t break its journalistic fourth-wall on behalf of an equally prevalent mythological reference.

Good journalism rests on clarity of communication. While this fact is probably used to justify the hand-holding in the MSNBC article, I think it is actually a point in TE‘s favor: One of these articles had to grind to a halt for a quick vocab lesson, while the other treated its audience like an adult. Can’t American media start doing more of the latter, and less of the former?


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